Appalling Vista

by Kieran Healy on November 22, 2007

This ad has been playing on various PC websites, such as CNET’s Windows Vista Overview page. It’s a very clever use of sidebars and ad banners.

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Windows Vista » Comment on Appalling Vista by joel turnipseed
11.24.07 at 1:22 pm



novakant 11.22.07 at 8:24 pm

apple sucks

(ducks for cover)


JP Stormcrow 11.22.07 at 8:58 pm

Catching me at a ripe moment for this. Right in the middle of trying to get my daughter’s ##%##@$+!*&&&!! Vista to work with my wireless network. They “try” to make it so simple – but when it inevitably doesn’t work you fall down 5 layers of abstraction. (To be fair, it doesn’t help that I have an old semi-brain dead Linksys wireless router that I had to back down the firmware on since the latest rev hangs on various streaming media.)

I hate computer, networks and holidays. Bah Effing Humbug!!!
Microsoft = “legacy” computing. Vista = System/390 = end of the line.


Ancarett 11.23.07 at 12:30 am

Amusing, but it still isn’t enough to make me buy into the evil empire of Apple!


Steve K 11.23.07 at 1:17 am

I still don’t get how people can have a personal investment in these Windows/Mac wars. It’s just one piece of nasty corporate software replacing another. I do have a personal investment in my computer, but then I use Linux (Debian) (I like my poison koolaid undiluted) which means that my software is under highly ethical licenses that let me do whatever I want to provided I don’t try to interfere with anyone else doing whatever they want to. It’s still not as user friendly as a Windows or Mac (though it’s getting there), but every time I update my computer I feel like I’m 6 years old and have a pile of new presents waiting for me under the Christmas tree. When a piece of software on my computer doesn’t work it feels sad (not merely frustrating), like my software community is a little dysfunctional. Can you say that when your Windows or Mac doesn’t work? I thought the point of an imagined community was that it was supposed to inspire a loyalty that corporations weren’t able to.


SG 11.23.07 at 1:31 am

novakant, ancarett, here in Japan if you want to buy a computer with an English language OS capable of Japanese, you have to pay an extra $600 for the Vista Enterprise edition, which doesn’t come standard on any reasonably priced computer. And on top of that, all the other versions of Vista I have seen handle those language changes very poorly – my partner’s workplace Vista has a printer with no Japanese language support (in Japan!) which crashes her PC, as does switching to the Japanese input (randomly, of course). This means that every time I do a web search for a restaurant or a timetable I am likely going to crash my super-modern up to date PC. Bugger that.

Given that for $1500 or thereabouts you can buy an Apple with fully functioning language support, I didn’t have much choice. So it was Apple for me, and as a bonus I now have working R (R is notoriously shitty on XP – god only knows how useless it will be on Vista). I have used PCs for the past 12 years, and still do in my office, but I have to say that I am not looking back…

I have tried Steve K’s solution twice. The first time, I had to spend 2 days finding the correct binaries to make my graphics card work, and those binaries were wrong. I had to then find the code, work out what was wrong with it, and change it. Just so I could have access to kde. And the network and printer stuff still didn’t work. I too would like my koolaid undiluted, but I also want it to be able to print! So Apple is a perfect compromise, I think.


Steve K 11.23.07 at 2:12 am

SG’s right about the printers; they are the big sore spot w/ Linux There are a lot of printers that do work, but it’s kind of a catch-22: until more people start using Linux, printer manufactures aren’t going to feel pressure to open-source their drivers. As far as graphics card go, most of them should work out of the box now, and Nvidia in particular has been very supportive of Linux (but that might require one to plunk down $30 bucks on a new video card). Still, when I first installed Linux 2 years ago, I found myself staring at a black screen with a flashing command prompt. When I installed it a few months ago for my parents everything installed right the first time (still had to remember to add some proprietary codecs), but the installation process took me to a functioning KDE desktop with a high quality web browser and email program. That’s an amazing leap in user-friendliness, and I think that after getting a printer up and running the hardest part of using Linux now is memorizing the names of all the new programs as well as Unix’s oddly named file system. I doubt it will ever be as user-friendly as Windows or Mac, but it does seem to me like it’s ready to pick up a big section of their user base.


SG 11.23.07 at 3:54 am

Steve K, that is a vast improvement in user friendliness! When I did it the first time I had an intel 810 graphics card. The necessary binaries were out there but some were corrupted and the uncorrupted ones had an error in a file path. I basically had to track down a description of exactly what the binaries did, find the error, and correct it. This took a lot of work! So I don’t believe Linux (especially) will ever be user-friendly for idiots like me who like to have a computer which works out of the box. I am willing to pay for that, but not an extra $600 on top of the hardware because some dickhead at Microsoft can’t program a functioning language interface – it’s not like the idea is novel, Apple and Unix have done it for years.

The problem for Microsoft is that just as Apple and Linux are getting more stable (in the case of the former), and more user-friendly (the latter), MS have released a really shit OS with lots of problems. At the same time they have released a new Office to work on this buggy platform, with completely revised and restructured menu systems. This is a big problem for them. I think a large part of MS’s original success (and the reason I stuck wtih them so long) was that combination of stability and a highly user-friendly office system. Now they’ve screwed both of those advantages, just when the competitors have something good to offer. Silly, in my view, especially since modern Apples are price-competitive (even without adding $600 to buy software just so you can get a basic feature).

(Plus, the DRM in Vista gave me the willies. Living in Japan, I get a lot of foreign – i.e. Australian – material sent to me, and I can’t necessarily play it on Japanese equipment. I don’t want my computer to lock me out as well!)


Steve K 11.23.07 at 5:34 am

I’m using the i810 video driver on my Dell laptop, and it works just fine. The only problem I’ve had is that Dell does something screwy with their memory that requires you to go into the BIOS to increase the amount of video memory: a small problem but it might spook some people. (And Ubuntu/Kubuntu now has very nice dvds that you can use to test to see what Linux would look like on your computer before you install it.) I don’t consider myself to be an especially computer savvy person either. I’m a literature student. I can read Derrida, but I don’t know anything about computer programming. Binaries are things I deconstruct, not fix.

I think the DRM problems are going to cost Microsoft dearly. What I’m not sure of, though, is whether those problems aren’t going to start haunting Macs, too. I’ve heard, for instance, that ipods do nasty things on Macs to make sure that you aren’t adding your friend’s mp3s to your ipod (easy to get around on Linux and, I think, on XP, too), and I’m pretty sure Macs make you region code your dvd drive. My drive is uncoded. I’ve noticed a lot of teenage kids in file sharing chat rooms talking about their Linux computers. My hunch is that, given the anarchistic spirit of Linux, it’s going to become the preferred operating system for file sharing.


SG 11.23.07 at 5:53 am

That’s an old laptop! I was doing this maybe 5 years ago – perhaps the chip was different then…? It was in a clone PC, so maybe the motherboard was unusual. I solved the problem, but then I would have had to do the same round of crap for the printers, the network card, …

The DRM problems I have read about seem to be more extreme on Vista than Apple, but will undoubtedly affect Apple to some unpleasant extent. I hadn’t really cared too much about these things in the past, but now I am to a certain extent dependent on foreign content (it is going to be at least 1000 years before I can read Japanese fast enough to read subtitles on a French movie, for example), so I need some flexibility with content access. It would have been nice to use Linux to do this; but of course you have to fiddle with the damn set up to do so.

And here’s the rub: were I to buy a new PC here in Japan, try to install linux and fail, I would then have to install something Vista-like on it. Which would mean either forking out that $600 and/or enduring the instability of the language options. Not to mention incompatibility with a lot of software I download from western sources – and the persistent problem of R.

I think you have deconstructed my binary nicely too btw – now I think about it, I was examining the code for the i810 drivers, not the binary. Given I can’t even tell the difference between those two types of file, it’s no wonder it took me 2 days to get the graphic card working…


Doug 11.23.07 at 6:37 am

The canonical response, I think, is “Crash Different.” Though some of the issues my old friend mentions in the video will have gone away with OS X. Still funny though.


Ben Alpers 11.23.07 at 7:39 am

I’m pretty sure Macs make you region code your dvd drive.

Depends on what you mean my “make you.” Macs ship with region-coded DVD drives that allow five changes in region. But you can flash their firmware and effectively turn them into region free drives (you still need to use a little freeware app called RegionX to change regions, but you can do this as many times as you like).

Of course, flashing your firmware voids your drive’s warranty.

And doing so would be wrong.


SG 11.23.07 at 8:07 am

not if you move to another country, so that when you buy a region-coded machine in that country the company you have bought it from have essentially robbed you of your entire DVD collection. Then they’re wrong, not you. I have it on good authority that this is why bittorrent was invented.


Steve K 11.23.07 at 10:53 am

Yes SG, it is a pretty old laptop. I bought it used. I’m poor.

Ben, I had that region menu pop up once when I was using a Mac, and it didn’t let me select the region code I wanted: Region 0. I don’t think selecting Region 0 is immoral. It looks to me like a region dedicated to universal values like truth, beauty, freedom, and cooperation, values that transcend petty local concerns like a particular corporation’s bottom line. I think a more interesting question than the morality of Region 0 is whether it wrong to give your money to the enemies of Region 0, to what Ben Bagdikian calls “the Media Monopoly”? The answer to that question should be clear by now: at no point in time should you give any more of your money to the Media Monopoly. They take it and pollute the public sphere w/ sensationalistic trash like Paris Hilton and Dick Cheney.


Wax Banks 11.23.07 at 2:36 pm

It looks to me like a region dedicated to universal values like truth, beauty, freedom, and cooperation, values that transcend petty local concerns like a particular corporation’s bottom line.

Less wine next Thanksgiving, friend.


Bruce Baugh 11.23.07 at 3:01 pm

Steve K: When a piece of software on my computer doesn’t work it feels sad (not merely frustrating), like my software community is a little dysfunctional. Can you say that when your Windows or Mac doesn’t work?

I don’t actually want to. I have a severe case of depression and have too many problems with routine life making me feel sad. My computer is a tool, and what I care about is that it work like the tools I use in the kitchen and elsewhere in my home, to help me do the things I want to do comfortably and without hassle. I’m a Mac user because Apple hardware and operating system and OSX software do that best for me; friends of mine use different hardware and software as suits them.

As a young man I put a lot more time into my computers more or less as ends in themselves, tinkering with the hardware, tuning the OS and apps, the whole deal. If I were 21 again I’d likely be a fairly hardcore Linux user now. But I’m 42, and computers aren’t my job. I can compile kernels; I just don’t want to. I can set up monitors for nightly updates and patch or recompile programs; I just don’t want to. I like that my computer lets me put more time into the things that I’m actually interested in, in ways that match my physical needs (adjustments to compensate for optic nerve damage, for instance; OSX is way ahead on handicapped accessibility issues, or rather for my issues, just as Windows is the best place for speech recognition for individual users) and my aesthetics.

If I found myself treating my computer as an object of any more intense or more complicated emotions than the appreciation I feel for all well-designed tools, I would promptly ditch it and go find a different computer that didn’t do that.


Bruce Baugh 11.23.07 at 3:04 pm

By the way, Steve K, as a general thing, advocacy works better when it isn’t structured as “Your choices suck and you are an immoral tool of villains, but if you please me, enlightened I might save you.” Which is how you’re coming across. There is an audience for abuse as a recruiting tool, but that would be if you’re trying to pitch Linux to fundamentalists or Log Cabin Republicans. Wrong rhetorical stance here.


Dylan Thurston 11.23.07 at 4:57 pm

By the way, Steve K, as a general thing, advocacy works better when it isn’t structured as “Your choices suck…”

That’s amazingly condescending advice you give there, Bruce.


Bruce Baugh 11.23.07 at 5:15 pm

Demonstration by example, your key to business success! :)


lemuel pitkin 11.23.07 at 7:54 pm

Now I’m thinking maybe I should install Linux. My new job gives me lots more free time I have to fill up somehow! It’s either that, or become an Unfogged commenter.


MattF 11.23.07 at 9:33 pm

Lemuel Pitkin says:
Now I’m thinking maybe I should install Linux. My new job gives me lots more free time I have to fill up somehow!

My free, unsolicited advice is to set up a VMware server (it’s free) and try out Linux as a virtual machine on your current computer. The free VMs that are available have a pretty wide range of usability and a wide range of sources– but Linux is kinda like that anyhow.


Daverz 11.23.07 at 11:12 pm

#11-13. Just install vlc and stop worrying about region codes. It’s a very capable program and runs on everything.


vasi 11.24.07 at 12:45 am

lemuel, mattf:

Another great option is Wubi. It lets you install Ubuntu Linux as a file on your Windows partition–if you decide you don’t like it, just delete the file and everything’s back the way it was before.


joel turnipseed 11.24.07 at 8:56 am

vasi: but does Wubi work when running WinXP Pro on Parallels?

Just kidding. Sort of. Switched back to Mac this past summer and it’s great. Except for the part about half my brain being removed due to my inability to figure out the OSX interface conventions after a ten year absence (just learned how to save to subfolders tonight).


cbisquit 11.25.07 at 11:44 pm

That ad was running for 2 days on engadget and had the horrible effect of launching into some recursive start-loop mode whenever it was put into a tab other than the immediate foreground in firefox, internet explorer, OR safari.
It blared audio feedback without permission and brought machines with 4 gigs of ram to a screeching halt, making it the most pervasively broken piece of code I’ve ever seen on a major commercial web site. It single-handedly convinced me to change my stance on ad blocking software on ad-supported sites. I’d recommend everyone who uses firefox to go get the extension now at
Oh yeah, and go Apple!


tps12 11.26.07 at 2:56 pm

The only thing worse than computers is talking banner ads.

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